The all or nothing blitzkrieg of Joplin’s life, artistic vision and singular character are brilliantly captured in Amy Berg’s potent and poignant documentary. Bravery and loneliness are keynotes as the life of Janis – a new kind of self-defined, rocker – comes alive.
Berg gets great access; Janis’s often self-excoriating letters home are sensitively read by Cat Power. Contemporary testimonies from friends, lovers and fellow travellers capture the full extent to which Janis (“a dangerous person to take to a bar,” recalls an early comrade) was loved, troubled and, simply, unforgettable.
Candid drug buddy Sam Gordon, talk show king Dick Cavett, looking haunted by her ghost, are particularly revealing. The archive clips – from opening footage of her meth-driven recreation of Etta James’ Tell Mama to closing scenes of Janis returning to her high school reunion - are stunning.
Brilliantly edited to bring full meaning to the narrative arc of Janis’s life, Little Girl Blue is an important, inspirational account of a devastating talent with a message that still resounds down through the ages.